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Alberta, Fossils Mount Public Campaign Against Federal Clean Fuel Standard

The Alberta government and its fossil industry allies have launched a public campaign against one of the cornerstones of the federal climate action plan, a long-awaited Clean Fuel Standard expected to cut 30 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2030.

The “private spat” between the two jurisdictions “is becoming a public fight,” CBC reports, with Alberta claiming the standard will harm its recovery from the recent oil price crash. While details of the standard are still being finalized, the province estimates it will add 5¢ to the price of a litre of gasoline and increase the cost of natural gas and other energy products.

“As concerns mount, the federal government has delayed the release of the CFS,” the CBC notes. “The proposed regulations for liquid fuels will be announced in spring 2019, while the regulations for gas and solid fuels will only come out in fall 2020.”

But Alberta isn’t waiting to make the claim that the CFS will affect the province’s low-income families, harm industries exposed to international competition, and knock a percentage point off its GDP growth by 2030.

“We certainly want to see cleaner fuel and we’re committed to taking real action on climate change,” said Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd. But “this feels like they are writing off Alberta, and we can’t have that happen. We’re prepared to continue swinging on this one and stand up for what’s important” for the province.

“Our made-in-Alberta plan invests in clean technology and innovation while enhancing industry competitiveness,” McCuaig-Boyd added on Twitter. “The federal clean fuel standard does none of that.”

Alberta also tapped Richard Masson, former head of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission and now an executive fellow at the fossil-affiliated School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, to critique the CFS.

“[When] we compare it to what’s going on in the U.S. with deregulation…it really does put Canada’s industry at a bit of a competitive disadvantage. And that results in fewer jobs and less investment,” Masson told CBC.

“Pretty soon, you’re growing a lot of corn to make ethanol, or you’re importing ethanol from tropical rainforest countries, and it doesn’t necessarily help the planet overall,” he added. “So a clean fuel standard on the face of it sounds like a good idea, but you need to make sure it’s implemented in a wise way, so that you don’t end up with consequences that hurt consumers and hurt other parts of the overall environment system.”

And yet, if the CFS were dropped or further delayed, Ottawa would fall even farther behind in its attempts to meet a Harper-era carbon reduction target for 2030 that both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna have declared a floor, not a ceiling for the country’s climate ambition. The government has already acknowledged the country’s climate action plan will fall 66 megatonnes short of that inadequate goal, while an independent analysis placed the shortfall above 100 Mt.

Earlier this week, Natural Resources Minister and Edmonton MP Amarjeet Sohi said Ottawa is listening to Alberta’s concerns, but the Clean Fuel Standard will proceed.

“I know there are many people out there who would rather see taxpayers pay for the cost of pollution,” he told CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener show. “For us, I think we need to have a combination of actions, and this will be one of them.”